One of the biggest stories in the vaping world as of the last few years is the prevalence of vaping among high school teens. In fact, a new study has shown that more US teenagers have tried vaping (using of E-Cigarettes) rather than smoking cigarettes. The study found that 35.8% of students who were in their final year of high school had tried vaping, compared to 26.6% who had smoked a cigarette.
Since the rapid growth in the popularity of vaping, there has been much debate raging in public health circles about the health effects of E-cigarettes and vape pens. While some researchers take a strong stance against it, arguing that vaping does more harm than good, others have focused on the benefits that the device has for current smokers.
But, we are not here to discuss the health risks, problems or benefits associated with vaping. The above findings show that vaping has progressed well beyond a cigarette alternative. Vaping has become a new delivery device for several different substances, including, of course, weed.
Another study* published in the National Institute on Drug Abuse in December 2017, found that cigarette smoking has dropped so significantly among American teens that vaping and cannabis use are now more common. The survey, administered by the University of Michigan and sponsored by the federal government’s National Institute on Drug Abuse, reported that 22.9% of high school seniors had used weed within the last 30 days and 16.6% had used a vaping device. Only 9.7% had smoked a cigarette.
So what is the reason for this trend? Why are so many teens choosing vaping and marijuana over smoking cigarettes? In this article, we will take a look at what a weed pen is, as well as an E-cigarette, and answer this fascinating question.
What is an E-Cigarette?
E-cigarettes – full name electronic cigarettes and also known as e-cigs – are small, portable devices that use battery power to heat up a liquid which is turned into a vapor and then inhaled by the user. They have been taken up by millions of people all over the world since they first appeared on the Chinese market in 2004. These devices have been marketed as a way to cut down on smoking, although there is a lot of contradicting research surrounding the health effects of the E-cigarette.
An E-cigarette is a long tube that typically resembles a cigarette, a pipe, a cigar, or a pen. Most of these devices are reusable and come with replaceable and refillable cartridges, although some are disposable. Smoking an E-cigarette is commonly known as “vaping.”
Most E-cigarettes have a mouthpiece, a cartridge, a heating element, rechargeable battery, and electronic circuits. As the user sucks on the mouthpiece, the sensor activates a heating element that vaporizes a liquid, flavored solution that is held in the mouthpiece. The user then “vapes”, or inhales, the aerosol solution. The nicotine content varies between zero and “extra-high.” Certain flavors, like the combination of tobacco and menthol, try to resemble the traditional cigarette.
What is a weed pen?
A weed pen, also often referred to as a vape pen, is a small, portable device that allows you to inhale marijuana without producing smoke. Essentially, a weed pen is the same thing as an E-cigarette, but modified to vaporize marijuana flowers or concentrated extracts, like wax, oil, or e-liquids).
Vape pens heat the waxes, oils or dry herbs to approximately 400 degrees Fahrenheit before combustion. This enables the user to inhale vapor without the harmful toxins that are present in smoke.
Vape pens work in the same way as e-cigarettes. The main components include a chamber, battery, power button, mouthpiece, and atomizer. When activated, the battery heats up the atomizer component, which is typically made of quartz or ceramic. The chamber is filled with dried flower and marijuana concentrate. The difference is that, when you inhale, you get a big puff of marijuana vapor, instead of nicotine vapor.
Why these devices are popular among teens
One of the main reasons that e-cigarettes and weed pens are so popular among teenagers is because they are very discreet. Many e-cigs, especially the JUUL, which is one of the most popular brands, can vanish into a closed fist. You can use these devices indoors without attracting the attention or stench that you would when smoking a cigarette. In fact, if you’ve had a look at Twitter lately, you would probably notice the latest trend of teens who post about their usage in school.
Because of the size and the odorless vapor, it’s fairly easy for students to vape in class without the teacher noticing. It’s common for students to hide their vape pens in their sleeves or pockets and vape into their shirts.
Another reason that vaping has become so popular among teens is that they perceive it to be a much safer alternative to smoking cigarettes. A survey conducted on Twitter had a response from 270 high school students, of which 42% confirmed they vaped and 33% stated that they don’t vape but aren’t opposed to it. 25% of respondents said they don’t vape and are opposed to it. One high school senior by the name of Richard Opper stated that he believes vaping to be a better social action than smoking a cigarette. He went on to say that while cigarettes can lead to lung failure and various types of cancer, vaping doesn’t have these risks. He stated that he thought people should definitely vape rather than smoke cigarettes.
But, Richard isn’t the only student to believe that vaping is a healthier option. Ryan Berlin, a sophomore surveyed during the same study stated that he didn’t think vaping was that harmful, especially when compared to cigarettes. Many teens are under the impression that vaping is a much healthier option than smoking cigarettes since it eliminates the toxins that are released when the tobacco is burned. Whether or not this is, in fact, the case, is a discussion for another day.
Also interesting to note is that minors don’t perceive marijuana to be unhealthy or detrimental to one’s health. In the same report* mentioned earlier in this article that was administered by the University of Michigan; it was reported that only 14.1% of 12th graders considered smoking marijuana occasionally to be a “great risk.” This was a huge decline compared to the 40.6% of seniors who held this view in 1991. Smoking cigarettes, on the other hand, was viewed by students in all grade levels as distasteful and a serious health risk. Ultimately, it all comes down to public opinion among teens. This is in large part thanks to the strong public health anti-smoking campaigns. Smoking cigarettes is no longer deemed as “cool” among youngsters, but E-cigarettes and weed pens most certainly are.
A new study published in 2017 found that, while hard drug use such as heroin and cocaine continues to decline, with the lowest levels of usage in 43 years, marijuana use has increased slightly. While most teens still opt for the traditional way of burning marijuana or consuming edibles, one-fifth are now exclusively using weed pens. The study went on to report that more teens are smoking weed than tobacco. 5% of teens reported having smoked a cigarette in the last 30 days, while 15% said they had been stoned during that same time frame.
Teenagers are also drawn to vaping for the fun of producing thick clouds of vapor that be used to produce smoke tricks. In addition, they like the assortment of pens and flavorings that are on offer. Many teens who vape say that it gives off a cool image. It’s not surprising really when you think that millions of teens are exposed to adverts for vape pens and e-cigarettes online and in stores. While tobacco advertising is no longer allowed, the vaping industry has taken over by associating independence and sex appeal with their products.
How teens are able to use these devices
Currently, there is no federal regulation on the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, and as for weed pens, well it’s very easy to purchase these devices online. While the selling of vaping products is restricted to adults 18-years or older, research has shown that vape pens and liquids are regularly sold to underage teens. These sales often occur online, where teens can use generic gift cards, among other “tricks” to illegally make purchases. Buying electronic cigarettes and weed pens online is extremely easy, even with “so-called” laws in place for age verification.
A study* done in North Carolina and published on Jama Network found that, despite the state’s age-verification laws that are in place, more than 90% of vendors had failed to identify the age of teens who had bought e-cigs online. The study consisted of eleven teens aged between 14 and 17 who tried to buy e-cigarettes from 98 of the most well-known internet vendors. Of the 98 orders, only five were rejected because of failed age verification. Eighteen of the orders failed for problems not related to age, such as website issues. The minors succeeded with 75 orders in total.
The minors were asked to answer the door when deliveries were made, but none of the companies tried to confirm age at delivery. Also, 95% of the time, orders were just left at the door, and in cases where the teens did answer the door to accept the package, none of the shipping companies tried to verify their ages.
This goes to show how easily accessible these devices are to teens. By all accounts, it seems a whole lot easier to get their hands on these products in comparison to purchasing cigarettes in stores. However, as mentioned above, there are many other reasons why “vaping” has become so trendy among teens.
Is this trend something to be concerned about?
Vaping is quite a controversial topic, almost as controversial as the matter of cannabis itself. Some people are very much against it, and others are very much for it, ultimately it depends on who you ask. But, in all honesty, a lot more research needs to be done on the safety of vaping in general, and whether or not it’s healthy in comparison to smoking cigarettes.
There is concern that E-cigarettes could be a gateway to the use of traditional cigarettes, although they are meant to be a device to aid in smoking cessation. Neither of these theories have been proven yet; however, the possibility that they might lead to smoking cigarettes is a concern among parents and researchers.
While we don’t promote the recreational use of marijuana for teens, it’s worth noting that we are pretty sure that just about any parent would prefer their kid be consuming weed rather than hard drugs, like heroin or cocaine. As we mentioned earlier, the use of hard drugs seems to have seen a very significant decline since the 90s, with marijuana use seeing a slight increase. So is it really all that bad that teens are smoking weed rather than nicotine? We will leave you with that thought to ponder.
Final thoughts on weed pens and E-cigarettes among teens
There are many reasons that teens are opting for weed pens and E-cigarettes over smoking traditional cigarettes. For starters, these devices are a lot more accessible, discreet, and fun to use. One of the most interesting findings is that cigarettes are no longer viewed as “cool” and are seen as unhealthy. Marijuana and vape pens, on the other hand, are viewed as a healthier option and are thought to be “trendy.”
Everyone has their own opinion when it comes to substance use among minors and what they should and shouldn’t be allowed to consume. No matter which side of the fence you’re on, a lot more research needs to be done on vaping and vape devices before we can coherently determine how significant this new trend among teens is.